Settling In: Why We Like a Home
Why I Love Cheerwine: A Story (Part Four)

Why I Love Cheerwine: A Story (Part Three)


[I've been posting drafts of pieces of this story about Henry as I write it.  I'm also continually revising the story.  If you want to read the entire draft, as revised to date, you can find it here.]

As he turned into the drive of his house, Henry stopped whistling and started singing.  He sang hymns, mostly, and today he thought to himself that given his newly formed bond with Bozo, "Blest Be the Ties That Bind" would be appropriate.  The song had the additional reputation of being his Mama's favorite hymn, particularly that verse about "When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain, but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again."  He didn't know what "asunder" meant, but it didn't sound good.  He stopped to check his mailbox and, finding nothing, he broke into song, his pure tenor voice ringing out.  When he reached "and hope to meet again," he felt his throat tighten and he sang softer, and then he stopped just short of the door.  There, pinned to the door, was a manilla envelope.  He pulled it off the screen where it was attached with Scotch tape, turned it over and looked at its front.  "Department of Social Services," it said, in the corner, and there, right in the middle, it said "HENRY DAVID ASKEW."  The back of the letter was sealed up tight, with an extra piece of tape over the flap.

Henry raised the envelope to his nose and took a good whiff.  "Hmmm.  Smells important. " He imagined an office somewhere with a man leaning confidently back in his desk chair with a good looking secretary, like Josie Griffin, maybe, writing down what he said, just like in the old Perry Mason reruns.  He grimaced.  That made him worried, thinking about lawyers and courtrooms and big impenetrable books stacked up on the desks and men arguing over things he didn't understand, long strings of words punctuated by a "Henry" here and a "Henry" there.  "Just my luck it's some lawyer," he said out loud.  He stuffed the envelope in the pocket of his shorts and opened the screen door and front door, letting the screen door make a whack-whack-whack on the doorpost as he dropped it.

He never tired of walking into his house, from outside to inside.  He always marveled at how different it was inside from how it was outside, and how he even felt different inside.  Outside it's hot, inside it's cool; outside he smelled mown grass and hot steamy asphalt, inside he smelled an old smell, slightly musty, and yet somehow reassuring.  Henry remembered the time he got the tape measure and measured and figured out that the walls were only around 12 inches thick, and he marveled that such differences could exist within 12 inches of each other.  He shook his head and smiled.  "I got too much time on my hands, Sam, too much time," as he reached down and plucked his elderly tabby cat from the den chair, stroking its fur, eliciting a gravelly vibrato of a purr.  Walking to the fireplace mantle, he pulled the empty Cheerwine bottle out of his pocket and added it to the row of bottles already there.  There were Cheerwine bottles on the mantle, stacked in cases in the corner, filling the basement downstairs, and lining his bedroom wall.  Henry gave up counting them, though sometimes he tried to, just for something to do.

Sitting down in a brown recliner, he situated himself so as to cover the rip in the seat of the chair.  He made a mental note that he needed to get that fixed, though he couldn't figure out how to get it fixed.  Leaning back, Sam rolling on his back, eyes closed, he took the envelope out of his pocket and laid it on the table next to the recliner, smoothing it out where it was wrinkled.  "HENRY DAVID ASKEW," it said, and "Department of Social Services."  He leaned back, closing his eyes, and before long his chest was rising, and falling, rising, and falling, Sam oblivious to his motion, Henry's arms dropping to his sides languidly, a slight snore starting, the rays of sun streaming through the back door window getting longer and longer until they were gone, darkness wrapping Henry's house, a darkness with only a sliver of a moon.